Exclusive Conversation: Amarpreet,Nishith & Abhishek-Co-Founders-Frrole
Frrole was founded by Amarpreet as a consumer news product. Nishith and Abhishek joined him in early 2013, and the team pivoted to focus on the enterprise. Nishith and Amarpreet both MBAs share the same alma mater, and met via their alumni group at IIM Kozhikode. Abhishek who is a M.tech met Amarpreet through a Trilogy ex-colleague of his. Amarpreet now handles business & product, Nishith handles marketing & operations, and Abhishek takes care of engineering & technology.
What was the idea behind starting the venture?
We started Frrole in April 2012 as an online social local newspaper on the premise that real-time, curated social information was missing from newspapers, travel guides, events sites and digital media.
Earlier in 2013, we started realizing that insights from social data is useful for almost all kinds of enterprises, and our intelligent technology can help companies improve user engagement, understand their customers, amplify marketing reach and build relationships. Frrole News grew to almost a million users a month before we pivoted to our enterprise offering in August 2013.
Please brief us about your business model and revenue model?
We charge for the data streams that we provide to our clients. A stream is a defined rule that allows a certain specific kind of tweets/data to pass through. Typically, the applications our clients use integrate between 8-12 data streams. Our charges are $100 per stream per month, thus making a typical application worth $1000 per month.
What are your major offerings?
Our major offering is very precise, filtered, customized data streams suited to our clients’ very specific needs. Our customers can use these streams to extract curated, precise content related to topics, locations, products, people or brands, and integrate it within their applications. An example is a live Twitter debate on Headlines Today where winner of the debate show is decided based on analysis of people’s reaction on Twitter. Our data streams can also be plugged into web applications easily to improve user engagement and interaction by brands, TV shows and campaigns. Customers can also derive insights from social conversations, for example to determine who is the most talked about celebrity in India, which are the most buzzing products from each city, who are the thought leaders across product categories, all of it in real-time.
How are you planning to escalate your business?
We are investing both time and resources heavily into technology. We take pride in our intelligent technological capabilities and this is what we’ll continue to improve as we grow. We are expanding our team from 4 to 7 in next 3 months, and to 9-10 by end of this year. Considering 3 out of 4 current members have business background, and are MBA from top schools, we are highly customer centric. We have done thorough analysis of the market and the gaps, and are aware of use cases that are needed in the market, not only in India but across the globe.
How big is India, as a market, for your business? What is the number of users currently?
India is a substantial market, considering its growing internet & mobile penetration, which has a already huge, but nowhere close to where it can be. It is still far from where US is, but in the years to come, India has huge potential to become one of the largest markets relying and deriving insights from social data.
We are a B2B company, so no. of users is not the best metric. We work with more than 15 customers who have gone live, and are in advanced stages of acquiring an equal number of additional customers in coming 2-3 months.
What are the challenges and your strategy to overcome them?
Fortunately for us, the challenges seem to be very minimal. We are first mover in this region, and have already got huge traction. We have support from Twitter India team, and unless they themselves set out to do exactly what we are doing, we’ll continue to help each other grow in this region. Entry into US is a challenge at this stage, and whenever we go ahead with that, we’ll have to face competition that has established itself in that market; though we believe that we’ll be able to grab a large pie in the American market, using our superior technology as the differentiator.
What has been your learning so far as a company?
As a company, it is extremely crucial to understand your customers. A highly sophisticated technology is useless, if it doesn’t help its customers. What we’ve learnt is that ‘customers’ needs’ are always evolving, and unless you emphasize with their needs, challenges and goals, you’ll always find yourself struggling to sell.
You set out to do something ground breaking, that is great. But, you should always keep on evaluating the use-cases that can be built on top of your technology, if you want to succeed and scale. While creating best technology is an extremely proud achievement, putting it to use is an entirely different chapter.
What are your priorities for 2014?
- Being the first preference for any company in South Asian region for anything related to social data – Insights, analysis, campaigns or anything innovative.
- Becoming Certified Twitter Partner
- Entry in the US market
How has been response so far for the business?
Overwhelming, to say the least. We’ve grown to more than 15 clients & 4 lacs in revenue within first six months of launching our enterprise offering. Almost all Indian media companies have shown great interest in our offering, and we’re at various stages of implementation with each of them. Thanks to elections, the importance of social data came out in the open very blatantly, and our offering got its initial set of customers and appreciation without waiting for too long.
Few words for budding entrepreneurs
- Have a team. Startups are way too much work for lone founders.
- Show investors some incoming money. It’ll increase your chances of getting funded manifolds.
- Start with a founding team, finding co-founders later can be an incredibly tough task.
- Have a plan B to sustain yourself, while you are trying to make it big.
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